The Dragons would be crazy not to re-sign Dugan

Andrew Webster, speaking on NRL 360 two nights ago, revealed that the Dragons are offering Josh Dugan a reported $750,000 a season to continue on in the Red V, $100,000 less than he is currently earning.

The club are adamant that for as long as Dugan remains a Dragon beyond this season; he will do so in the centres.

This, despite coach Paul McGregor stating after the game on Sunday night that Dugan’s best football is played at fullback, and for as long as he is at the helm, that is where he will stay.

It’s clear that there are major disparities between what the club want and what the coach believes is in the best interest of his team moving forward.

This is dangerous ground for a football club.

Dugan has spent the last four years earning back the respect and admiration he lost when he parted ways with the Raiders following a string of off-field incidents that saw his career face a premature end.

Will Josh Dugan remain in the Red V beyond 2017? Photo: Sporting News

Over this period, he has represented his state and country and has been a consistent performer through a dry period for the club.

So for the Dragons to offer Dugan less money than his current value is an insult to not only his growth as a footballer but his worth to the team.

The addition of Ben Hunt has a great deal to do with this.

Three months ago, the Dragons would’ve jumped at the opportunity to secure Dugan’s signature beyond this year, regardless of his asking price. It was a no brainer.

But the exorbitant figure they dished out to lure Hunt away from Brisbane has left a huge hole in the kitty.

In many ways, Hunt could prove to be more of a hindrance than the gifted messiah he is made out to be.

The Dragons were reeling entering season 2017 and the signature of Hunt assured fans that they would become a competitive force again next year.

A marquee signing would settle tensions and promise a light at the end of the tunnel scenario. And in many ways, it has.

A month into the season though, and suddenly it looks as if they might have jumped the gun. Confidence is running high and things no longer look so bleak.

The issue for the Dragons has always been their willingness to look outside of the club when the talent lies within; letting players go who have been brought up through the local systems but haven’t delivered on their potential.

And so the cycle goes: lure a high profile player by offering a life changing sum of money and force a group of home grown players to go searching for another club.

Then, when that player excels at a rival club and the marquee signing that took his place gets dropped to reserve grade, admit that the money would have been better spent keeping him on the books.

Let Dugan walk away for a matter of a few hundred thousand dollars and be left red in the face again.

He’s been one of the best performers through a difficult period for the club and is well worth his asking price if he is allowed to play at fullback.

The centre experiment hasn’t worked in the past at the Dragons and the club should recognise that he is not worth the coin to stand on an edge and be starved of possession.

He might be entering the backend of his career but the physicality of an NRL contest has not caught up with him. There are signs that he could go to another level if this current Dragons outfit continues in the same rich vein of form.

They look as well drilled as the first infantry.

The Dragons were blinded by poor performances when they penned the Hunt deal and will suffer dearly if they can’t fit their off-contract stars under the cap now that they have limited space left to work with.

The signing of Dugan is seismic. It could see the likes of Widdop, Lafai, Mann, Matthews and Packer squeezed out of the club at the end of the 2017 season.

A significant blow for the Dragons who are slowly regaining their aura after a painful period where wins were harder to come by than taxi’s on a Saturday night.

The Dragons on-field woes might well have been answered across the first four rounds of the competition but the tangled web of off field logistics has the potential to put the brakes on their progress.

Roosters push for premiership favoritism, Tigers impress momentarily at Leichardt

Picking a premiership winning side at this time of the season is fraught with uncertainties.

There’s injuries to consider, the unpredictable Origin period which often throws up the odd contrary result, and suspensions for misbehaving players.

But the Sydney Roosters are mounting a strong case.

Against South Sydney on Thursday night they looked a team determined to return to where they were when they won minor premiership after minor premiership, barely able to lose on a bad day.

It was a golden period for the club, headlined by strong leadership and a burning desire to remain the powerhouses of the competition.

So when the Roosters finished season 2016 in 15th position with just six wins, after enduring a year spent trying to escape the media spotlight, it was to be expected that skeptics would begin to whisper behind their hands.

Standing in the eye of the storm was coach Trent Robinson, who truly is a man among men.

When others began to question the Roosters methods and condemn their attitude, he got on with business; quietly confident that the winning culture would return.

Now he is grinning an infectious grin like a child around a Christmas tree. Patience has payed off.

The Roosters are 4-0 and the only team, alongside perennial finalists Melbourne Storm, to remain unbeaten through four rounds of football.

The Titanic might well have sunk last year but the rescue crew has done well to execute a recovery mission.

The forward pack is big, bustling and giving the halves pairing plenty of space to run and weave their magic. The outside backs are young, but ever-dependable. And in Michael Gordon they might just have one of the most influential purchases of 2017.

He’s as reliable and hard working as an old V8 engine and brings two valuable qualities that the Roosters lacked in 2016 – consistency and a win at all costs mentality.

When the game is being played at a frenetic pace, or any speed that the Roosters are failing to cope with, Gordon is there to settle things down like a lollipop man on a main road.

Against the Panthers last week he produced a clutch play that sealed victory in the dying minutes. There are significant question marks over the pass that led to the eventual try, but these are the kind of moments that make signing experienced players in the twilight of their careers worthwhile.

He was considered a spent force in the eyes of many clubs last year and has produced four sterling performances since to prove them all wrong.

Of course, we’ve only had four rounds and many teams are still trying to find their bearings, so the Roosters could well be shot out of the sky at any time.

But they’ve defeated four teams that are far from easy beats, including the Panthers who many have tipped as premiership contenders.

The question now is who can stop them?

The Cowboys, who have played challenging opposition so far this season, look tired and are lacking muscle; struggling to close out games.

The Broncos are performing but failing to win convincingly. A reality that has seen Wayne Bennett fend off on-field questions by diverting the topic of conversation to off-field dilemmas.

Even last year’s premiers are trying to figure out what style of football they want to play – grinding or in your face. They’ve won two from two which is an accurate reflection of their head space in the absence of Ennis and Barba.

Melbourne are the obvious choice, but they too have hit a road bump or two in the last few weeks.

Very rarely could you associate doubt with the Melbourne Storm, but the Origin period, without their big three, could prove taxing if their injured stars remain sidelined.

Errors are beginning to creep into their game and opposition sides are taking note.

Tigers push turbulent week aside to start like a house on fire against Storm:

What a difference a week can make in Rugby League.

The Tigers were ducking under haymakers from the fans and press in the lead up to the game, but managed to fly out of the blocks against the Storm in a spirited performance that would have inspired Laurie Nichols to perform his trademark shadowboxing routine.

It was important that the Tigers, particularly the big four, turned up for the battle on Sunday to justify Taylor’s sacking.

If they’d played like they did last week against Canberra, uninterested and defending like seagulls around a hot chip, the question would have been asked: “Why did the coach get the axe when the players are quite clearly the problem”.

Giving up a fourteen point lead and failing to score thereafter rings alarm bells, but against consummate professionals like Smith, Cronk and Slater it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking a two try buffer is enough.

The Tigers are still a long way off where they should be and until things change at the top, big losses are inevitable.

But the Tigers showed that there’s life in them yet and when the big four take accountability, there are marked differences in their performance.

NRL delivers knockout blow

The 18th man debate has resurfaced this weekend following a round which saw a number of clubs receive fines for breaching the NRL’s concussion rule.

Five players from three separate clubs sustained head knocks at the weekend but none were brought from the field.

Brendan Elliot, who was hit like a freight train by Hymel Hunt, was visibly disoriented and wouldn’t have been able to remember where he parked his car. But after assessment from the club doctors on the field, he was deemed well enough to play on.

There were three cases in the Titans game with Parramatta on Friday night and the club has had to pay a hefty $150,000 fine for failing to give Elgey, Greenwood and Simpkins the proper attention following knocks to the head.

To cap off an ugly round for the NRL, Josh Dugan was also allowed to continue playing following a stray elbow from teammate Russell Packer, despite being out for the count. The Dragons were later fined $100,000.

Imagine what parents are thinking when they sit down with their children to watch a game and see players stumbling around like a drunken tourist on Surfers Paradise Boulevard after receiving a heavy hit to the head.

Do they really want them playing Rugby League in the knowledge that they might be left permanently damaged by concussion because of its questionable management?

The NRL has tiptoed around concussion in recent years, but after a weekend which saw a number of confronting incidents take place, and in light of recent events involving James McManus taking out legal action against his own club, they needed to step up and draw a line in the sand.

There are already enough problems with the game. Concussion doesn’t need to become bigger than it already is.

But would this issue be as prevalent if coaches were able to call on an eighteenth man in the event that their bench was to be decimated by injury?

Knight’s coach Nathan Brown made his opinions well known following the game on the weekend and it appears his views are echoed by a number of the coaches across the competition.

“The bigger problem is injured people being forced to stay on the field because we don’t have any players left,” he said.

“I’ll leave that with the referees and judiciary….But if Brendan Elliott has to leave the field because of that, and then the player does get suspended, who gets the benefit out of it”.

Herein lies the problem. Brown couldn’t have summed it up any better.

Not only would coaches and doctors be less inclined to leave a concussed player on if they had an eighteenth man at their disposal, the opposition player would also be sent off, putting them at an immediate disadvantage.

Hymel Hunt’s swinging arm on Brendan Elliott would’ve knocked out Mohammad Ali and should have resulted in a stint in the sin-bin.

He has since been fined by the match review committee but the penalty needed to have ramifications for the South Sydney Rabbitohs on the field.

Another element of the concussion rule that the NRL must address is the use of club doctors in determining whether a player should or shouldn’t leave the ground for a HIA.

It was obvious on the weekend that the doctors were allowing players who thought they were on the surface of the moon to continue playing because they were short on troops.

This is a competition-wide issue and no one club can be excused.

But the decision to pull a player or let them play on should not lie with club doctors. Particularly when reputations and careers are at stake.

Josh Dugan is one of the most highly rated players in the competition and the Dragons would have been left without a key player if he was brought from the ground during the early stages of Sunday’s derby against the Sharks.

The doctor assessed him, went through the mandatory on field questions, and deemed that a HIA was not necessary even though he was left seeing stars.

Had Dugan not been the influential attacking weapon he is, would the doctors have treated him the same way?

It’s a question that extends to other clubs but it is ultimately the NRL who must ensure this is put to an end and taken out of the hands of club doctors.

Giving out fines like speeding tickets for breaching protocol is a start, but it is not a strong enough deterrent. Clubs will break the rules in a heartbeat if a small financial penalty is all they have to worry about.

NRL need to set a precedent for gambling within the game

Todd Greenberg has done much in his time as NRL CEO to confirm that he is the right man for the job. But with just one statement in last week’s press conference to announce the fate of troubled West Tigers star Tim Simona, he immediately undid all his good work.

“Based on the evidence we’ve identified, it is very hard to imagine that Tim Simona will be registered with the NRL at any time in the future”.

Simona deserved a life-ban. His crimes are inexcusable and are in breach of more than just the NRL’s policies. He has broken the law, betrayed his team and should have been rubbed out of the game with not even the slightest chance of ever being allowed back; if for nothing else than preserving the game’s image.

But the wishy-washy nature of Greenberg’s statement, and the penalty, is hard to overlook.

The NRL haven’t taken a tough stance on any indiscretions other than salary cap breaches in recent times. Even the illicit drug policy has come into question by the players during the last week.

Back in 2002, the Bulldogs were fined $500,000 and docked premiership points when they were found to be cheating the cap.

Melbourne followed in 2010 for the same misdeed, but were also stripped of their premiership titles.

When it came time for Todd Greenberg to hand down his decision on Parramatta in July last year, he had a precedent, set by previous administrations, by which to follow.

As far as match fixing, or dealing with breaches in the games gambling code is concerned, the NRL is yet to establish a benchmark. It remains a grey area.

Todd Greenberg needed to make an example of Simona to rid the game of gambling issues. Photo Source: Bein Sports

When news first broke that Tim Simona was placing bets on himself and opposition players to score tries against the West Tigers, the length of his ban in the eyes of the public was heavily dependent on an individuals moral compass.

What did and didn’t come under the banner of breaching the game’s ‘integrity’, and to what degree Simona’s actions could be seen as doing so when opposed to something like doping, was up for debate.

But that was before details of his contemptible charity scams and drug habit were brought to light, turning a tale of addiction into something more sinister.

At this point, the NRL had a golden opportunity to deter other players from even thinking of committing the same abhorrent crimes, by handing down a penalty that would force them to risk their careers if they wanted to follow in Simona’s footsteps. But in just one statement, Greenberg left the door open for future occurrences to take place.

A disappointing and undesirable result for the game’s image and culture, which is already under heavy scrutiny from the outsiders looking in.

Greenberg would have done well to express more than simply his personal feelings towards Simona’s actions. They were well considered, meaningful even, but didn’t fulfill their purpose.

Instead of using terms such as ‘hard to imagine’, which are open to interpretation by a future CEO who may wish to re-register Simona if he feels he has served his time, he needed to make an example of the former Tigers winger by banning him for life.

Simona’s contract has been torn up by the NRL. Photo Source: Geelong Advertiser – 

If the NRL isn’t willing to play hardball then we shouldn’t expect gambling issues within the game to disappear automatically.

The same goes for the current protocols in place to deal with players who engage in recreational drug use. The punishment simply doesn’t fit the crime.

We must even question the effectiveness of the education forums administered by the NRL. Clearly, if these issues are systemic, their messages are failing to sink in.

Simona knew the consequences of his actions but still chose to feed his addiction in the most heinous way imaginable, by selling jersey’s and keeping the proceeds, promised to charity, for himself.

He had been through the NRL’s programs, presumably a number of times, but failed to heed their warnings.

The Wests Tigers missed the eight by one point in 2016. An issue that went largely unaddressed while the case was under the microscope.

It should have been the wake up call that kicked the NRL into gear, but it was barely considered.

This very point demonstrates the kind of influence match-fixing and gambling violations can have on the premiership at large.

What must the fan, that forks out thousands of dollars to watch their side play each year, be thinking when the NRL fails to take a tough stance on players making a mockery of their allegiance.

Does he or she still believe in the integrity of a contest?

There will always be question marks over the result of a game until the NRL brings in stringent rules to rub out those who attempt to manipulate them.

ECB must face tough questions before launching franchise T20 juggernaut

It has been seven months since the counties voted in favour of a franchise style t20 tournament that will revolutionise and reconfigure the cricketing landscape in England forever. Over this period, the debate around its feasibility has not subsided and the repercussions are suddenly being felt as we travel into a new season that will for the last time, it seems, go uninterrupted by t20 cricket played until the cows come home.

At present, this competition – its groundwork, its structure and how it plans on selling itself to the out-of-favor counties, but more importantly, the fans – is still very much an unknown. What we are certain of is that chairman Colin Graves, who has envisaged the many financial benefits and growth opportunities that a city-based t20 tournament can bring the ECB since he first layed eyes on the Big Bash, is fed up with being the black sheep of the cricketing world; operating a t20 league with little appeal to both fan and player. The ECB, Graves, Strauss and Harrison now have their foot in the door following that grim evening in the Lord’s Long Room that, to this day, threatens to tear at the fabric of English cricket and divide the counties into two distinct categories – the powerhouses and the financially unstable.

Around the time the counties voted in favour of the radical changes to t20 cricket in England by a margin of 16 to 3, Graves was accused of a conflict of interest involving his family trust and Yorkshire County Cricket Club, who owed over $18 million to the organisation in October last year. Earlier that month, Durham were handed a penalty for failing to pay back the 7.5 million pounds worth of debt that the ECB themselves are in part responsible for. Many believed the punishment didn’t fit the crime and the unanimous cries of fans that protested against Durham’s treatment served as the ultimate proof. But one overriding theme endured – Durham would be playing in the second division in 2017 with little hope of returning to the top flight for at least the next few years thanks to the wrongdoings of the ECB.

First, there was the Chester-le-street stadium that the ECB recommended be built away from any other major landmarks, and urban hot spots, in a town with a population of just over 25,000 on last count. Not only does this make little business sense as far as getting fans to attend the ground is concerned – which they are essentially relying on to increase cash flow and cover the construction costs – but it also shows how unreliable and self-orientated the ECB are when it comes to providing financial advice to the administrators of small counties. Which is interesting when you consider that those counties are, if not in the traditional sense of the word, a member of the ECB and the financial decisions they make have flow on effects for English cricket.

Then there was the scheduling of test matches and other international events spanning right back to just after the 2013 Ashes test held at the ground. And this is where Graves’ conflict of interest begins to take shape. Last year, Chester-le-street held a test match between England and Sri Lanka – a game best remembered for Alastair Cook’s milestone surpassing innings – to which few fans attended, leaving Durham to lick their wounds, cut their losses and, you’d suspect, reach out to the ECB for financial support. Only three test matches have been held at the ground since 2009 and this trend is set to continue following the ECB’s decision to strip Chester-le-street of test match status as an add on to their already harsh punishment, leaving Durham with one single source of revenue that will likely originate at domestic level, not international. It also remains unlikely that Chester-le-street will host any Cricket World Cup matches featuring full-member nations, given that it will have little funds available to outbid the well-endowed counties. This has left Durham with but one option to break the cycle of debt without falling into further trouble – accept the ECB’s terms and buy into whatever get out of jail free enterprise they are offering.

Compare the treatment of Durham to Yorkshire, for in which Colin Graves has helped out during times of financial stress, and the conflict of interest concerns become blatantly apparent. Headingley has held test matches year in, year out for as long as I can remember and have almost always featured the likes of India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These high profile nations attract crowds of significant size, generate greater revenue, and thus allow the big counties to make a profit, not hemorrhage money in the way Durham and Hampshire do when they cannot cover the operating costs involved in staging a test due to the quality of opposition. And by awarding Headingley with a test match each year, not to mention the occasional ODI or international t20 match, Graves is able to increase the speed at which the repayments are made to the Graves Family Trust by Yorkshire. To top this off, the ECB have also been accused of an uneven distribution of funds.

Bearing the above in mind, there can be no question as to why the smaller counties such as Durham have voted in favour of a city based t20 competition. It is the only way they foresee an escape from the crippling cycle of debt that will affect their county on the field as much as will off it. They really had no other option but to jump on board the good ship ECB, that played a starring role in their demise, and ride it into the sunset in the hope that it may bring them some kind of financial security and see them return to the first division of the championship free of a burdening salary cap that immediately places them at the back of the field. But it could well be an empty promise if the re-branding sees fund distribution reach another extreme.

A colleague, visiting Australia from England, more specifically Kent, once told me that a Big Bash style competition couldn’t work in the old country because, quite simply speaking, it is not Australia; it has 18 counties that must all be represented, not six states. His logic, while simplistic and based solely on opinion, rang true. In this revenue driven cricketing economy the fan often goes unconsidered, or is there simply for the purpose of monitisation. Whether he/ she wants to see their county, and the championship, put on the back burner for the sake of a domestic t20 tournament bereft of context is often dismissed by the ECB, but it is a factor that must be considered if they want franchise cricket to strike a chord with the English public. The fan is their most important asset and ultimately decides whether it goes up in smoke or gains traction like it has in other parts of the world.

Australia expanded its Big Bash competition from six states to eight franchises six years ago, with each state having at least one team for which the local fans could follow. Since, it has not dared look back. Queensland, for example, is represented by the Brisbane Heat. NSW by either the Syndey Thunder, if you live in the western suburbs, or the Sydney Sixers, if you hail from the city. No state goes unrepresented, or stadium unused, and the expansion has in many ways covered more ground than it might have lost. The revenue has of course increased, but it is equally distributed amongst the states given that the franchises are not privately owned as they are in the IPL.

The ECB, with their city based competition, are essentially condensing the playing field and cutting off its blood supply when it should be doing the exact opposite. It isn’t modelling itself of Australia at all. If it was to follow the Big Bash’s blueprint, Cardiff wouldn’t be representing Somerset because, not only are they separate entities, but its fans have never had an allegiance with Glamorgan, where Cardiff would likely play the majority, if not all of their matches. So why should we expect them to start now?

I’ve long been an advocate for the t20 competition remaining in its current form with some slight remodeling, and if the initial plans to run the two tournaments in quick succession does indeed eventuate, I might just get my wish. But it would be ignorant to suggest that both will operate swimmingly along side each other without conflict caused by a competition for supporters and sponsorships. When one features the counties and the other cities – potentially giving one county more exposure and allowing them to operate independently – there is bound to be some friction as far as revenue sharing is concerned. If Manchester, for example, was to become one of the new city-based teams in the, lets call it ‘Super Slog’, taking players only from Lancashire and playing their home games at Old Trafford, would this not upset the balance and ratio of revenue distribution? Why not continue calling them the Lancashire Lightning?

If all counties are equal stakeholders and receive the same amount of money from television rights, sponsorship etc, than fair game. But this seems like an unrealistic expectation. Manchester would play games at Lancashire’s home ground, receive the windfall from ticket, merchandise and food sales, and the other counties wouldn’t see the light of day because the revenue would be divided up among one county. They would also take many of the current England stars playing for Lancashire – the likes of Jos Buttler or James Anderson – and reap the extra benefits from that, leaving the other city franchises, comprised of multiple counties, to fight among themselves for an even distribution of the revenue that would, more often than not, lie with the dominant county – Hampshire if Southampton was to be made up of Sussex and also Kent as The Cricketer has suggested in the past.

The ECB simply would not be able to police or enforce an even distribution of funds when so much is generated by the counties that have access to test match venues, and as such, are the most likely candidates to house one of the new city based teams. Not to mention that a few of these counties will have an entire franchise to themselves, giving them the perfect opportunity to grow their brand while the others are left in the dark. All of this big county favoritism is extremely unsettling and shows that the ECB are handing out special treatment in the knowledge that these counties are the major players as far as the generation of revenue is concerned. This in itself could lead to a seismic shift in the balance of power amongst the counties that would likely cause irreparable damage to the way we currently understand domestic cricket.

The Blast would stick around for a few years following the launch of a city based tournament, but if it was to be hidden behind a pay wall, as it has been for a number of years, and the franchise tournament took off abroad as well as at home, it would die a painful, yet swift death. The ECB would likely push for an expansion meaning extra games are played throughout the year, leaving no time for the Blast to take place. It’s happening in Australia already and their is a push for extra teams to be added to both increase revenue and raise the value of television rights. Oh, and to reach more rural areas in the hope of getting kids involved in cricket. This is something the Big Bash does extremely well.

We mustn’t underestimate the effects a city based league would have on the longevity and popularity of the County Championship either. With players flying in and out of one city and into another to take the field for their franchise, there is the possibility that those particular players, possibly key members of their respective sides, could miss entire games. Apart from bitter feuds between the counties, franchises and the ECB, this has the potential to weaken a county side to the point of relegation from the first division, and you can hardly expect the fans to take notice of the championship if their team’s best players aren’t on the park and struggling to win games as a direct result.

Then there’s the issue of scheduling and the reduction of championship fixtures if the t20 juggernaut takes off in England like it has done elsewhere. What would Graves be inclined to do when one competition is heavily outweighing the popularity of the other? Reduce its size of course. Just like the BCCI has done in India.

There would be a few losers if these circumstances were to arise but the biggest would undoubtedly be the English test side. Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed were uncovered in the championship last year and found themselves on a plane to India soon after. They were fine additions to the England side and will likely take over from Cook as England’s opening pair when father time catches up with the journeyman. But if the breeding grounds to foster young players are no longer in place or dropping in quality, finding future test cricketers becomes increasingly difficult.

The ECB have plenty to weigh up before they make a decision that has the potential to change more than just a few team names and logos. Imagine a world in which Sussex, Leicester and Hampshire played in an entirely different league to Yorkshire and Lancashire; with its own independent board and separate scheduling. Now think about how this would affect the Championship or the One Day cup in their current form as well as English cricket at large, because it just might pan out this way if the ECB lets financial status dictate whether a county has to operate in conjunction with rival clubs, or independently.

Roosters down sorry Dogs in placid affair

Last night we witnessed two teams headed in very different directions on the competition ladder.

The Roosters – with their new look halves combination and experienced pack – are gearing up for a top four finish, while the Bulldogs are in damage control and struggling to maintain their foothold in the competitions predicted top eight.

The former have found form across the first two rounds of the 2017 premiership season and there are no prizes for guessing why this has come about.

Missing the finals in 2016, following years of sustained success, hit the playing group like a freight train and left many of their seasoned veterans scratching their heads, wondering whether 2017 was destined to finish in the same vein.

But that was before Keary, who is shaping as the best buy of the season after two match winning performances in his first two games for the club, joined Halfback Mitchell Pearce in an untested combination that has worked like clockwork since its unveiling.

Selecting the winner in the lead up to last week’s game against the Gold Coast was a lottery, but if the same fixture was to take place today, the punters would have no qualms in backing the boys from Bondi. In fact, they would start as overwhelming favourites.

While a great deal of the Roosters’ early success can be put down to the Keary and Pearce factor, the likes of Ferguson, Guerra and Aubusson have been just as monumental in the sides’ impressive performances.

Latrell Mitchell is perhaps the best emerging talent in the NRL and credit should be given where credit is due. He is an immensely skilled footballer and has Origin written all over him. The side would not be as proficient in attack without him.

We mustn’t underestimate the influence of Michael Gordon either, and what his experience and impressive CV brings to the table.

The recruitment managers at the Roosters deserve to be commended.

For the Bulldogs, the same cannot be said. They battled hard for eighty minutes on Thursday night to get within just four points of a challenging opposition, but the media scrutiny around the alleged rifts between players, board and coach are beginning to show.

And with every loss, this debate, and the attention that accompanies it, only intensifies.

Latrell Mitchell, future star. Photo:

They scored 24 points in the game but this doesn’t paint an accurate picture of their attack.

Three came off the back of Roosters errors and another was scored by running an over used, predictable block-play through the middle of a tired Roosters ruck that, later in the season, would have been snuffed out in a heartbeat.

Summing up their attack in a nutshell is easy because there isn’t much to describe. If given one word, it could be labelled uncreative. And this comes down to a lack of involvement from their halves which is affecting the potency of their go-forward.

The Bulldogs spine is one of the best in the competition on paper but they haven’t shown their wares in a number of months. When they do, their football is scintillating and creates an exciting spectacle for fans watching on television or at the ground. But these occasions are becoming few and far between with every passing game.

205 Roos v Dogs
The Canterbury Bulldogs will need to lift if they are to get their season back on track. Photo: source unknown. 

Structures like those that the Bulldogs have employed for what feels like generations are effective in certain circumstances, but when opposed to modern off the cuff methods, are often made to look obsolete.

So it is no surprise than, given the magnitude of evidence stacked against them, that their season is already on the rocks.

Sacking Des Hasler would be like shooting the messenger. He’s not directly to blame for their woes but is easily scapegoated as the responsible party because this is the only link we seem to make when teams are playing poor football in this era.

A man who has coached his side to two deciders inside five years doesn’t deserve to go. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the players. They must lift.

Lack of transparency responsible for Smith’s brain fade

Like any test series featuring two sides under great pressure to perform, tensions are beginning to fray and this mornings headlines will likely reflect the darker side of the Bengaluru test match as a result.

This isn’t the first time things have gotten hot under the collar when these two nations have come together. The Monkey-gate saga involving Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh spilled over from one series into the next back in 2008, and the repercussions, it appears, are still being felt today.

The Bengaluru test had numerous flash points, some of which involved heated confrontations between players, but the majority came about following numerous startlingly poor uses of a system that is designed to increase decision making accuracy, not compound the underlying issues.

When Steven Smith looked to the dressing room for advice on whether or not to review an LBW decision that had gone against him seconds earlier, he opened up a whole new can of worms that I’m not sure the ICC or its members are willing to have a conversation about just yet.

India fought and fought for half a decade to keep the DRS away from its side because they believed it contained far too many inconsistencies and was prone to error, but eventually gave in when they felt it was more than just an untested novelty. And now it appears they have no clue how to use it properly.

Kohli consults DRS. Photo: Hindustan Times.

So when Kohli came flying in to dispute Smith’s actions, understandably aghast at his opposite numbers’ blatant disregard for the unwritten rules of correct DRS use, he was probably more concerned that the umpires decision had the potential to be overturned based purely on the kinks in the system. The very same issues that have led to a few of his dismissals in this series. Of course, he was forgetting one major detail. It had already been given out on the field and therefore needed to be missing the stumps altogether for Smith to be handed a reprieve.

In this case, the technology was far too efficient for its own good, while at the same time, too easily rorted.

The rules behind the DRS, and use of video review by the players and their staff, are too ambiguous at the moment and it’s hard to believe that if Smith had even the slightest understanding of what was, and wasn’t, allowed under the circumstances that he would have made the same judgement call.

Kohli was acting on a hunch when he saw the Australian captain swap a glance and a hand signal with his comrades in the stands. He himself has been on the receiving end of some DRS stinkers this series and wouldn’t want Smith, of all people, to be given a leg up by the very protocols that have seen him wander back to the dressing room time and time again with a befuddled look on his face.

He saw an opening to get public enemy number one into some strife with the third umpire and took it with both hands. I’ve no doubt that, had the roles been reversed, Kohli would have looked to the stands as well. That’s simply a reflection of his competitive nature.

Confusion is the Decision Review System’s single biggest problem at the moment. Whether it be founded on the umpire’s call policy, the 15 second window that is susceptible to human error or the differences in technology used between nations, the lack of transparency as far as the rules are concerned is damaging to its reputation as the world’s leading filter of poor on-field decisions.

If looks could kill. Photo: Indian Express.

There are far too many flaws and they are all beginning to come to light now that a few things have gone against it in a big series.

The television broadcasters are not immune to this controversy either. They too have a case to answer. Had the teams not been equipped with live feeds of the game, which have the potential to change or alter the course of play, this whole debacle wouldn’t have come about.

Video footage is essential in this day and age but the line between what is acceptable use and what is interfering with the contest is becoming increasingly blurred and has gone largely undefined for some time.

Delayed coverage for the playing staff is a means to an end, but there is next to no chance of this happening as immediacy plays a key role in delivering vital statistics and analysis to coaches and players.

A shakeup to the current decision review system is required and the ICC must come to the party in order to avoid further embarrassment. We’re operating on an already dated system and the outcomes are telling.